I made a goal during this stressful time of studying for that bar and that is to halve my body fat.
After I came back to America from New Zealand, my body fat ballooned in 3 months of living in California. I looked at my medical file recently and realized I went from 19% body fat, which is average to 25% in three months, while living in the USA. Also, when I went to 25%, my mommy let me know I was getting fat. Not pleasant at all.
Over time, without trying too hard, I went back to down 145lbs (22% body fat) and just hovered there for awhile. I tried to lose weight, but my weight wouldn't budge I almost stayed within the 140's range, no matter how much I worked out. This was generally true in NZ too.
Then in my spring semester of 2L year (last year), during finals week, I dedicated two months to losing weight. I took a very "scientific approach" to it. I became neurotic about trying to understand the biochemical pathways and physiology of how the body loses weight. It brought me back to my life science days as a biology major as an undergraduate.
I tried everything previously without much success, ranging from diets to working out. I never yo yoed because I never lost weight. In my scientific approach, I had a theory: everything is measurable. I should be able to project how much weight I'd lose with numbers, and test if my projections were accurate. Overall - the theory, approach, and results were sound.
Here's how I started. One of my problems with dieting and losing weight was how much bogus nonsense was out there. Everyone who's fit seems to know something about dieting, and so, they state half-truths that are not backed by research. People believe them because they are fit, but that's not a good measure of arriving at the truth or truths.
One of the fitness tales I bought into was I heard that the average man burns 2000 calories a day. I also heard that for every pound of muscle you have you burn 50 calories more a day. The latter statement came from the First Edition of Abs Diet by the Men's Health Chief Editor! Let me tell you; he was wrong!
At some point before I decided to put my theory into practice, for three months I kept a food log. In this food log, I recorded everything I ate and it's corresponding calories. Over the three months, I didn't gain a pound. I averaged the calories I ate per day and discovered my basal metabolic rate was about 1450 calories a day. This link appears to be the most accurate one I found on the web. It came close at saying I burned 1500 calories a day. http://exercise.about.com/
So - that's one false assumption that probably hindered my weight loss. I did not burn 2000 calories a day; I burned much less. Further - muscle hardly increased my basal metabolic rate. In fact, I found out that one study found every pound of muscle only added 6 more calories burned a day, while fat burned 2 calories a day. Yes, there was an increase but a very small one that didn't justify more eating.
Now that I accurately knew how much I burned a day, I found out that one pound of fat is equivalent to 3,500 calories. That means that I had to create a deficit of 3,500 calories. I found I could do this in three ways: 1) restrict how much I ate (the diet), 2) increase the calories I burned (exercise), or 3) combine the two former methods.
To test my theory, I did the first one first. I restricted how much I ate everyday by 500 calories for a week. In theory, if I did this I would lose one pound a week because -500 cal./day x 7 days = 3,500 cal = 1 pound.
Did this work? For the most part. I say for the most part because it took about 10 days to see the effects. Not sure why it took longer, but in general I found even with my approach - weight loss was, is, or will not be linear.
The 500 calorie deficit was also very taxing on my mind and body. I felt like I was and literally was starving, and the hunger pains were so severe I would wake up in the middle of the night because of them. I knew that if this is what it took for one pound of fat, I wasn't going to survive to lose 9 more pounds. I would give into my body's rage and pain. I couldn't imagine 9 more weeks of this. Apparently, hunger is the number one reason that people fail in their diet.
So - I picked the next alternative: increase the calories burned. I did more calculations and decided I was going to do enough aerobic exercise to be the equivalent of 3,500 calories per week. Boy, was I shocked to find that this would be for me the equivalent of 35 miles (56 km) a week. But that's what I decided to do I would run 14 miles twice a week and 7 miles once a week. That's three runs a week.
Again, like my experience with just restricting calories, the fat melted away but not in the projected 7 days. Some weeks, I would lose 0 pounds and the week after I would just drop two. But on average over the 9 weeks, my projections were on target.
It was easier to create the deficit by exercise because I would run at night. When I came home, I'd take an ice bath to induce further calorie burning. I would be so tired I would just sleep the hunger away. When I woke up, somehow, I wasn't feeling that excruciating hunger pains like dieting. For me - at least - I think my body knew the difference between using fat as fuel for exercise versus using fat because it thought I was starving. The earlier was not as painful as the latter - though there were points I would have sharp hunger pains when I ran as well.
Unfortunately, after hitting weight training again, I have to admit I lost some muscle mass too. There was no way around it because when you're body burns high volumes of fat, it takes some of your lean muscle away too.
Losing weight has two challenges. I just covered the first one, actually losing weight. The second problem is maintaining your new weight. A good analogy I use is that losing weight is like war time (a war with your body) and the second phase is peace time (governance after conquering). From my observations, peace time is harder. How many people do you know that gain their weight back after losing it? This is dangerous because once you do, you've increased the ratio of fat to lean muscle mass because remember, lean muscle mass was lost during war time. I like my approach to maintenance because I know how many calories I burn a day, and I just need to eat that amount or just a little less.
One year after that life-defining ordeal, I really managed to keep off the weight, hovering around 133-14 lbs. I did it by eating my 1450 calories a week. If I ate more, I would adjust by running more. Sadly, people made fun of me for eating like a bird or pecking away at my food. It was sad because it was them who were eating gigantic portions and me the exact amount I needed.
Now that I'm studying for the bar, I am under extraordinary stress. Studying each exception and exception to the exception of the rule of law just puts your mind and body under pressure. I decided to recreate the military like training I instituted for myself last year. Lot of former bar testers have told me: exercise a lot. I admit, it does help clear your mind quite a bit.
I've made it a personal goal to halve my body fat. I am at 12-13.5% body fat now. In other words, I have 16-18 pounds of body fat on me. I'll take the more conservative estimate of 18 pounds. Half of that is 9lbs, which means that's how much I need to lose.
On my current running regime, which again took some time for my body to kick in, I've been losing the approximate one pound per week. Yes, I still have sharp hunger pains while I run. I've lost one pound, so that means I need 8 more to lose, which is roughly about 8 more weeks.
That's too long. Weight loss can't happen too slowly or you'll give up on your regime, and it's impossible for it to be too fast either. (The Four-hour-body is just crock, it takes a lot of energy to even breakdown fat; therefore, it takes a long time to lose fat.)
I'll make a few modifications from my last regime. I think I can speed it up by one more pound a week by going on a healthy vegetable protein diet and limiting my carbohydrates. We'll see: it's another experiment on my body. On the off days, I'll do strength training to maintain my muscle mass. So - hopefully it'll be successful.
And my new curiosity is determining how to minimize those sharp hunger pains. I'm not sure; I have to do more research.
I'll post more details on the mechanism of fat burning that I've discovered. I'll post you on my wins and losses as well.